The joy of video drivers


So, I use nVidia. I know its binary. But it works well. ATI seems to have come a long way with its installer, but I had lotsa bad experiences early on, and just got comfortable with nVidia.

One of the things I relish, that reminds me of the flexibility of Linux, is to upgrade my video driver. In place. No restart.

To start, I’ll CTRL-ALT-F1 to a terminal, su to root, type init 3 to stop the GUI, and then download the driver (lynx http://www.nvidia.com/object/unix, I think). After moving it to my /home folder for various bolt-ons, I make it executable (chmod +x filename.run) and run it.

It’s pretty clean – it removes old instances, offers to check for updates online, and installs the new driver. Very occaisionally, it will fail and I need to modprobe nvidia, but this always seems to happen after I have been mercilessly tweaking and breaking things. So it is not a surprising thing.

After its done, I’ll type X to test it (the splash lets me know right off thqat the driver is loaded, otherwise its off to /etc/X11/xorg.conf to have a look). CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE to kill it and drop me back into console, init 5, exit from the root session, and CTL-ALT-F7 to hit the login manager (I like GDM over KDM). Once I log in, I’ll run glxgears from a shell to make sure glx and acceleration are really good to go.

With my XFX 6600GTX AGP card (128 MB), I get about 950 fps with some effects turned on (drop shadows). I stopped using transparency – it’s neat, but a little quirky, and a definite hog. Plus, after a while, it gets hard to see the text in one window for the text and graphics showing through from below. I get much, much faster results without any effects (composite) turned on, but I like drop shadows.

My biggest problem came when Cooker moved from xorg 6.9 to 7.x. Having busted ABI compatability between nvidia and xorg was a very unpleasant surprise, and it took me a while to get a workaround and even longer for nvidia to come out with updated drivers. But to their credit, they moved pretty quick after the recent security flaw with their driver was discovered.

I just love not having to restart after a patch, update, or driver upgrade. ^_________^

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